Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Does anything matter?

1. JakeW Says:
July 13th, 2007 at 1:19 pm e

I have a question: Does anything matter? And I don’t mean to ask this in a negative, cynical way. I have trouble thinking about how anything matters, that’s all. What is purpose? Any suggestions?

2. JakeW Says:
July 13th, 2007 at 1:25 pm e

I guess to explain myself further, I should ask, is purpose self-explanatory? Why “should,” I do anything at all? What does the word “should,” imply? Do all our actions reduce down to an if/then structure? What is happiness? Does anybody else ever wonder about this stuff?

3. mjberkey Says:
July 13th, 2007 at 1:54 pm e

Jacob, I actually have asked that question of myself many times. And the best I’ve come up with is 2 Nephi 2:25. We are that we might have joy. Joy matters.

4. JakeW Says:
July 13th, 2007 at 2:06 pm e

Why? Maybe I shouldn’t press the issue of significance as such, though. At least, it seems like a question that won’t be satisfied with an answer. So maybe I’ll make it a question of degree; what makes God’s will more important(or maybe of higher value?) than any other given entity’s will? Granted, God’s will does cover the eternal expanse of space, time, etc. So is Neitzche right? Is the will to power all that matters in the end?

5. mjberkey Says:
July 13th, 2007 at 2:20 pm e

I wouldn’t say that God’s will is any more important than the will of anyone else who is seeking the joy of others. But anyone with that aim shares in God’s will. It doesn’t matter if one is more important than the other. Is a body perfect without all its parts? And yet isn’t the head more important than the fingernail? But it doesn’t matter. Both are unified.

6. JakeW Says:
July 13th, 2007 at 2:34 pm e

So where does that leave the people outside the body? Well, I guess in Mormon doctrine, basically everybody submits eventually. Interesting. You’ll be a great missionary, Mike. Although now I have to ask; why does the body matter?

7. mjberkey Says:
July 13th, 2007 at 2:51 pm e

Well, I think the body can only matter if there is something outside the body. Otherwise, the word “matter” is only a term relative to the body itself.

… Look at us. A 16 and an 18 year old boy, pretending we’re philosophers on this blog of people 5 times smarter than us. You should email me at mjberkey88ZZZ@gmail.com (without the ZZZ’s <—- That’s fun. I think I learned it from Matthew) and tell me what you’re thinking.

8. JakeW Says:
July 13th, 2007 at 2:53 pm e

Oh, I’m not pretending. I genuinely don’t know a single thing. I’m about to email you about it right now.

7 Responses to “Does anything matter?”

  1. JakeW said

    Hey, Robert, thanks for the Derrida synopsis on significance and meaning in life. I actually was thinking about Heidegger a little in relation to meaning before I read your email, and it struck me that care is the primary characteristic of Dasein (that is, if you subscribe to Heideggerian thought, and I think I do). It struck me that what was at the “essence,” if you will, of my Being was what boggled me (or rather seem to care about)the most. Assigning significance to existence is part of my ontological facticity. So Derrida’s solution is selective caring? How does that work with “every knee bending and every tongue confessing,” when all is said and done? I think I’d better start reading him. Also, you mentioned another blog in your email that I’m not familiar with. Could you get me a link?

  2. Joe Spencer said

    As you might all be able to guess, I’m quite interested in weighing in on this discussion. But I only just got back in town, and I need to get to bed. I hope to get to this tomorrow night. And if I can’t add much to it for now, Jake and I will have a long talk on Tuesday!

  3. mjberkey said

    Oooh, I wish I could come.

  4. JakeW said

    Newp, not this Tuesday, Joe. I’ll be in a hotel in Seattle. The next morning I’ll be boarding a plane to go to a magical place, but to keep from sparking potential jealousy, I won’t tell where. (hint: it’s not really magical).

  5. Ah, too bad. We’ll have to see who shows up, then.

    As for this question, let me say just a bit this morning before rushing off to my meetings. The post-modern condition—in which we inevitably dwell—is precisely the recognition that nothing matters as such, that nothing is material in the sense of being a kind of bedrock upon which we can set everything else. This recognition can be devastating for religion (has been devastating), but it can also be quite helpful, as evidenced in the writings of a number of thinkers: Paul Ricoeur, Jean-Luc Marion, Michel Henry are among my favorites. I think that this recognition is fundamental to LDS theology, and that we have been proclaiming that nothing matters as such for a lot longer than the philosophers have! So how are we to think about this “nothing matters as such”? That is a much harder question, but one that has, I think, very good answers.

    That “nothing matters as such” frees us, I think, to engage persons. That is, as soon as matter (I’ll say “things”) cease to call our attention, we can (how obviously am I following Marx here? but certainly Hegel) begin to engage others, we can begin to answer the call that other people issue to us. To speak in a traditional vein, we are freed from matter (or from mattering) as such so that we can begin to dwell in spirit (spiritually). But I think this same point is put far more strongly in Mormon terms: we finally recognize that all spirit is matter, but it is more refined or more pure. That is, we discover that what matters—that what is matter—is spirit, is community, is engagement as such, and that what we have always believed to matter only matters in an unrefined or impure way, perhaps as a distraction. But where we give way to the weightier matters—to spirits with a more eternal weight of glory, to souls that matter so much more than anything merely material—the distractions of the flesh are themselves distracted, and thus exalted in that they are gathered up into the spiritual as such.

    As odd as this sounds, I think this amounts, for the Latter-day Saint, to a kind of sacrifice of “doctrine,” of “authority,” etc. One comes to bow before the Other and before others, and then one begins to recognize what these things really mean: doctrine as the engagement of a teacher and a student, authority as one’s sacerdotal writing meant to bind souls together, etc. But that is perhaps a bit more complex.

    What matters? Only this: spirit. Which is to say: What matters? Only this: charity.

  6. JakeW said

    Joe #5

    “Nothing Matters as such.”

    This ties in nicely to King Benjamin’s declaration on the tower that we are nothing. Nothing matters. So you’re saying that things don’t matter? But nothing does? Or rather, Nothings do?

    So that’s the expanded version of Mike’s “joy matters,” statement, although not really. Relationships matter, but that doesn’t seem so far removed from joy. So, for the rest of eternity, I’m consigned to an endless, awful state of having significance regardless of how I feel about that? I confess I’m still boggled at why charity matters. Charity, as far as I can figure out, spends all its time trying to expand itself. It’s a very self-serving attribute. If someday the entire universe was filled with only charitable intelligences and none other, would that be the end of significance? Would everybody just throw up their hands and say “Well, that’s that!” This is, doctrinally speaking, an impossibility, what with the infinite nature of everything. But then that gets me started on a whole NEW set of quandaries…

  7. Robert C. said

    Jake #1, I’m not sure Derrida would think about every knee bowing, though I think he said he could pass for an atheist, so I don’t think he’d choose to believe in such a prophecy (and I think he would put faith in terms of an unjustified choice, though I’m very, very new to Derrida’s thought, and quite new to Continental thought in general…).

    In this comment I linked to the lds-herm and lds-phil listservs. We’ve also just barely started the lds-herm blog, though we don’t started a “Submit a question” page there (yet!). Part of the reason to start this other blog is to keep the blog here a bit more directly focused on scripture (largely in an effort not to drive away those who have little patience with philosophy, at least that’s my thinking…).

    Also, I think Paul’s writings, esp. the first few chapters in Romans, are a great place take up this question of eternal significance. In particular, I have a few verse regarding creation in mind. I don’t think (contra Derrida, I think…) that we can find meaning ourselves. Rather, we have to look beyond ourselves, esp. to God who has created us. We can either accept the meaning God calls us to (implicitly through is creation and explicitly through his prophets), or reject it. I think the Gospel can be viewed essentially as a call to meaning (in charity, as Joe says).

    Finally, I think your hypothetical universe filled with charitable intelligences is a contradiction, since the universe (and love) is infinite, it can never be literally filled, which is largely why I think Joseph’s teachings on (or hinting toward) eternal increase are so profound.

    But perhaps it’s time we take this conversation to lds-herm, or email….

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